Habanero is foreign enough

June 8, 2019 ☼ Pedantry

We were decompressing in Ojai, poolside to be precise, while the guest-house rabble waited for the pool to climb to its promised zenith of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Our patience is without compare, as you know, but this ascent was as calming as true mountaineering and without the kicky thrill of oxygen deprivation.

So we distracted ourselves with other matters: oils essential, some bespoke Slavic Sinsemilla, and something called “br’unch.” (This is a commoner’s meal, beloved by the Unmotivated Generation.) We normally abhor portmanteaus, but we thought to Hades with it, we are on vacation!

It was during this liminal repast, that our lithe and beautiful Artemesia surfaced the topic of the most spicy Mexican pepper: habanero. But when her gentle lips spoke, she pronounced it: habañero (hab-an-yero).

This error is known as a hyperforeignism. It occurs when the colonial class adds some superfluous zest to their imported loanwords. But some peppers don’t need extra spice. Other examples include the common abuse of forte into “fort-ay” and as mentioned previously, Beijing as bay-zhing.

habanero (hob-an-arrow)

We have a soft spot for Artemesia, so this wound to our friendship is not fatal. She is, nevertheless, banned from taco night.